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I do not think the forces of right and decency and progress should surrender to a small group of irresponsible persons on the theory that legislation may be defeated.
Mr. COLE. Mr. Perry, I have great respect for people who differ, and I have great respect for people who do not approve of the civil rights amendment. They have their ideas. But of course there are people on both sides, individuals shall I say, on both sides of the Republican and Democratic fence, who attempt to pretend that they are in favor of it when they are actually not.
The point I am getting at is this: Is it your idea that this issue should be met in this type of legislation as well as any other type of legislation? Should we save it for one type of legislation?
Mr. PERRY. I want to say, Congressman, very definitely, that I should like to see all of these amendments offered in this legislation. I have proposed them in good faith, and do so with the support of my organization, and I think many other groups.
Now I just want to make one observation with respect to civil rights. I think there has been a great deal of propaganda today which has distorted the concept of civil rights. Î'he question as to whether or not the Congress is going to see that there is sound legislation with respect to housing, is not a question of civil rights.
Mr. COLE. I used the term generally, of course.
Mr. Perry. This is not meant in criticism of you, Congressman, but I think there has been a great deal of loose talk in terms of the words “civil rights.” It seems to me if you are going to have Federal aid to education, that we want to be sure that the education which is proposed in that legislation covers all the people.
If it is health, we want to see that all people are able to participate in the program and if it is housing, we want to see that the program extends to everybody, and corrects certain plain abuses which are not involved in the question of civil rights, the question of whether or not a Negro is going to be able to get a house.
Mr. COLE. Are there public housing projects in which that discrimination now exists?
Mr. PERRY. Yes, there are. There are public housing projects all through the South from which Negroes are excluded. We have filed suit several years ago against one, down in Texarkana, I believe, where a project was originally programed for Negro occupancy in connection with war workers.
The war plant indicated it had great difficulty in the matter of getting a stable unskilled labor market, and they importuned the War Department and other agencies to help secure the project. The project looked so attractive that the whites wanted it, and they took over the project and barred Negroes. We filed suit. It happened that the war ended before trial and the question became moot.
Of course all over the country it has occurred. A statement was made by Mr. Raymond Foley in which he pointed to the situation in Buffalo, where they had to buy a whole new site in order to get housing for Negroes.
I have a clipping here which comes from the Dallas Morning News of April 14, 1949, in which “whites advised to rely on race issue in fight." I do not want to read all this, but the paper quotes Joe J.
Lancaster, a principal of a school, and a member of the city planning commission on Thursday night, told nearly 50 South Dallas residents that they must fight a Negro housing development in the neighborhood mostly on the basis of race prejudice. Lancaster made it clear he was not speaking for the city planning commission before which protests must eventually be brought. He emphasized he had already disqualified himself from voting and was speaking as an individual.
He is quoted
You have no constitutional grounds on which to oppose the development. Any court will rule against you. And if one did not the Supreme Court eventually would. Also you can't claim that the coming of Negroes will impair the health standards of your community. That theory does not hold much water. And besides the court would simply say, put the Negro in cleaner surroundings such as the proposed project and his health standards will improve. You must show first that white people could well use the 408-unit development. And secondly and most important you must base the best part of your case on an untenable situation in the matter of race prejudice. You must show in other words, that race conditions at this time would make it injurious to both races to live in proximity one of another.
Mr. O'HARA. Mr. Chairman, may I observe that I have great respect for Mr. Perry and the splendid work he is doing, as well as the fine work that my very dear personal friend, Dr. Brown, is doing.
Mr. PERRY. I thought you made a very valuable contribution to our discussion here today in the matter of provision being made for displaced persons, displaced by the slum-clearance activities. In the city of Chicago, a large percentage of the persons displaced will be Negroes; is that not so?
Mr. PERRY. That is so.
Mr. O'HARA. And you feel that there should be some definite provision made in this enactment for those displaced persons?
Mr. PERRY. There is a provision in the bill which says that there shall be a temporary relocation, in an area in which facilities, in the terms of public utilities and the rest, are comparable to the area which they left, but the whole notion of a temporary location is not a very happy one with the present acute housing situation which is expected to go on for 5 or 10 years.
Mr. O'HARA. You would wish a greater degree of permanency in that provision.
Mr. PERRY. I want to see that when you dispossess and exile people from a certain area-whether it is in Chicago or whether it is in Washington or Harlem--that, in any projects built thereon, public or private, that such persons shall have first priority-assuming they are able to pay the rental-or if it is for sale, assuming they have the money and are ready, willing, and able to buy it. I am no expert on housing but that requirement, I understand, obtains in England in the redeveloped areas. It seems to me to be just simple justice. It just makes common sense. If they are going to build any housing on the project area, I think it ought to be open to those people who were first displaced. Now, in terms of the population characteristics of the new project area, I can very well.conceive of people, Negroes, Italians, or any other racial or nationality group-and they may be in the very low income bracket and who would not be able to buy or rent the type and kinds of units constructed. They would not be able to pay. But, on the other hand, as I have indicated to you, there are a lot of persons with moderate incomes who do live in areas now designated as slum areas, in every important city, who would be eligible, either in terms of rental or sale.
Mr. O'HARA. Thank you very much, Mr. Perry.
Mr. Brown. If not, you may be excused. Call the next witness, Mr. Clerk.
STATEMENT OF ELMER W. HENDERSON, DIRECTOR OF THE
AMERICAN COUNCIL ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Mr. HENDERSON. My name is Elmer W. Henderson, and I am director of the American Council on Human Rights. I have the honor to represent the American Council on Human Rights, a cooperative program of seven national fraternities and sororities, dedicated to seek the extension of fundamental human and civil rights to all citizens of our country and to secure a quality of justice and opportunity to all without discrimination because of race or religion.
At the outset we would like to express our strong approval of the objectives of the comprehensive housing legislation now before you. We believe that H. R. 4009 embodies a housing program which, if properly carried out, will relieve to a great extent the critical housing situation now faced by the American people.
The racial group that we represent has suffered more, proportionately from bad housing (and in some cases no housing) than any other in the country. The facts are so readily available to your committee that I will not now attempt to document this. It must be said, however, that in addition to the general housing shortage, colored citizens face the special handicap of a general policy of discrimination and even exploitation on the part of the real-estate industry. The racial restrictive covenant, still widespread though unen forceable in the courts; the reluctance of private lending agencies to invest directly in property to be occupied by Negroes, or to accept mortgages on properties Negroes seek to build or purchase, especially if outside of the so-called established Negro areas; and the heretofore policy of certain housing agencies of the Federal Government itself not to insure mortgages for Negro occupancy under only highly restrictive circumstances, have combined to create or perpetuate American ghettos. This is a harsh term but these conditions are so reminiscent of the old European ghettos that objective and impartial scholars, who have carefully studied the situation have felt impelled to apply this term. Within these ghettos, the overcrowding, the slum conditions, the compounded effects on the lives, the morale and the hopes of our people have been tragic, indeed.
The measure, in addition to the public housing provisions, relies to a large extent on private realty interests. The experience of Negroes with these interests has been so bad that it is imperative that the law should clearly state the policy that housing produced under this act should be available to all citizens on the basis of need and ability to pay without regard to race or religion. In spite of the sincerity of those who will be called upon to administer this act, the realities of the current housing situation are such that this statement of policy is imperative if the benefits of this legislation are to reach all of the people.
Particularly, do we feel that the law should require that preference in new projects, both public and private, be given to families displaced from the area because of slum-clearance activity, providing, of course, that they are able to meet the rentals charged. The need for this safeguard has become a burning issue among Negroes all over the country. You may have heard of the current litigation involving the Stuyvesant town project in New York, the defeat of the bond issue for redevelopment in St. Louis, and with the almost unanimous opposition of Negroes in Washington, D. C., to congressional appropriations to carry out the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act, all because of the justified fear that they would be excluded from occupancy because of race. We believe this to be only fair and in no wise deterrent to carrying out the objectives of the bill.
We do not believe the Senate gave full attention to this problem. All of the discussion on the floor centered around the public housing provisions of the bill. We are concerned most with the provisions dealing with private realty interests. The power to move people out of their homes and off their land; to turn the vacated land over to private corporations to erect homes subsidized by the Federal Government and then bar former residents of the area because they happen to be of a race or a religion not favored by the private corporation.
We, therefore, respectfully urge you to amend H. R. 4009 as follows:
On page 3, line 16, after "fulfill' insert "and (6) housing produced under this act shall be available to all citizens without discrimination because of race or religion.”
On page 12, line 18, following the semicolon after the word "time, a new subsection “(iii) to give preference in the selection of tenants to families displaced from the area by redevelopment activity, who apply and are able to pay rents or prices charged other families for comparable units built as part of the same redevelopment."
As much as we desire the passage of this housing bill, it would be extremely unfortunate if it went through without proper consideraL tion of these amendments.
Mr. Chairman, I want to endorse the excellent testimony just given me by my predecessor, Mr. Perry, for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and I was happy to hear Congressman O'Hara say he was interested in the question of displaced persons which we, like Mr. Perry, have raised in the testimony. We sincerely hope that you will find it possible to give some consideration to these suggested changes in the bill, but we would like to make it very plain that if those changes could be incorporated in the bill, the organizations and the thousands of members that we represent are heartily in favor of the passage of H. R. 4009.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions?
Identify yourself, Mr. Brown, and the organization you represent, and proceed.
STATEMENT OF EDGAR G. BROWN, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL
Mr. E. G. BROWN. My name is Edgar G. Brown, director of the National Negro Council.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I wish to, first of all, say that we are indebted to the chairman, again, and to the members, for their indulgence in giving us this opportunity to present our views in this matter, which, as has been said by the two previous witnesses, is perhaps the most important legislation that will come before the Congress, not excepting the labor bill, the health bill, aid to education, and all the others. One's family must have a house to live in.
Mr. Chairman, we regret that in the rent-control bill there was no antidiscrimination amendment finally accepted by the committee. We are very grateful, though, to the members of your committee here, Congressman O'Hara, of Illinois, who did yeoman service in presenting it. I have pointed it out in a number of meetings throughout the country, and I have just returned from speaking to several thousand people over the week end in New York, on the street corners, and in Newark, Philadelphia, and other places. I can say to this committee and to Congressman O'Hara that the great majority of the colored people who voted the Democratic ticket made possible, pretty largely, I think, President Truman's and the Democratic Party's election successes in 1948. I would like to read at this point, if I may, an editorial from the Afro-American, one of our leading newspapers, the Washington edition, of last week, so that the members of this committee and Congress can have very clearly in mind just how this whole matter affects the thinking of colored people.
There has been a great deal of newspaper publicity and comment about the statement of Paul Robeson, the Phi Beta Kappa key scholar, All American, and great artist, over in Paris at the Peace Conference, that Negroes would not fight against the Soviet Union. Of course, I disagreed with Mr. Robeson. In my own public statement, saying that as far as I could see—I am a veteran of World War I myself, and my son a veteran of World War II, and my sister, a first lieutenant, United States Army Nurse Corps for 4 years, a volunteer in World War II—that we still have the inspiring thought in mind that Patrick Henry gave expression, "My country, right or wrong." In that spirit, I would like to let this committee know that an antidiscrimination and antisegregation amendment is imperative, in our judgment, in this legislation. This fact has been made crystalclear by the previous testimony of Mr. Perry and Mr. Henderson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Council on Human Rights.
I wish you to know that it is not only the opinion of those of us who happen to be down here now speaking for these respective organizations, but that is also the very definite sentiment of a million Negro war veterans, and many thousands of others with whom we are in close touch.
I would like to read from the Afro-American: The arguments against the bill, other than those selfish ones propounded by lobbyists for the real-estate interests, center around the need for the incorporation in the bill of a nondiscrimination clause that would insure equal participation in the program by all groups regardless of race or creed.